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Co-workers: Man accused of assaulting Japanese tourist was fixated on Asian women

LOCKPORT - Robert E. MacLeod, the man accused of robbing and sexually assaulting a Japanese tourist in Niagara Falls State Park, used to talk all the time about abducting Asian women, according to testimony Thursday from two former colleagues.

Both women said they didn't believe MacLeod's claims in 2013 that he actually had grabbed female Asian tourists, stuck them in the trunk of his car and held them captive in his basement.

The two women who testified said they never called police or reported MacLeod's alleged statements to a supervisor at the time.

"I didn't think it was real," said one of the women, Josephine Lawler.

Assistant District Attorney Robert A. Zucco acknowledged, "We have no proof of other incidents."

But the women said after they heard news accounts of MacLeod's arrest on Dec. 31, 2015, they called police to share their recollections of the talk they heard in their office while working with MacLeod.

"I said, 'I saw this on the news and I'll bet my paycheck it was an Asian woman,' " Crystal Kayes testified. "I thought he was kidding, and now I'm not so sure."

MacLeod is accused of robbing and sexually assaulting a Japanese woman on Christmas night 2015 in Niagara Falls State Park, after the woman reportedly asked for directions.

The Niagara County District Attorney's Office paid to fly the woman back from Japan to testify before the grand jury and will do so again for the trial, which begins Monday.

MacLeod's co-workers testified at a pretrial hearing called by County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III after the prosecution sought permission to use the evidence about his alleged claims in the trial. Murphy did not decide whether to allow it.

Zucco argued that the testimony should be allowed at MacLeod's trial because it provides "a window into his psyche and his intent and his motivation for these crimes."

"Fantasies aren't motive," defense attorney Joseph Terranova told the judge. "It's just being a jerk and running your mouth off."

Murphy asked Terranova, "If a person talked every day for a year about robbing the First National Bank, and then he robbed the First National Bank, wouldn't that be relevant?"

"The only similarity between what allegedly happened in this case and what my client was talking about was that it was an Asian woman," Terranova replied. "They want to put this evidence in because the tourist can't identify my client."

The women who testified Thursday said they worked with MacLeod for about 10 months at Hewitt Capital, a collection agency in Buffalo. They said MacLeod left that company late in 2013, two years before the alleged crime in Niagara Falls State Park.

MacLeod seemed to have "an obsession" with Asian women, Lawler said. "He spoke of it every day, multiple times a day, like it was the only thing on his mind," she testified.

Specifically, Lawler said that MacLeod claimed, "He would wait for a woman to ask directions. He would snatch them and put duct tape on them. He would hoard them in his basement as his slaves, sex slaves, for duties around the house, to clean his house.

"He would beat them if he needed to, smack them around to keep them in their place. ... It was boastful: 'Oh, you should see the one I bagged last night,' " Lawler added.

"He talked about slapping them around," Kayes testified. "If they tried to talk back, he would smack them. ... He said he would have sex with them."

Kayes added that MacLeod used to tell his co-workers he would go looking for Asian women on what he called "Tourist Tuesdays." She also said that MacLeod would say, "They didn't speak English so they couldn't talk back to him."

Terranova asked Lawler, "How would you characterize Rob MacLeod as a co-worker? Office clown? Jerk?"

"Office creep," Lawler replied.

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